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Auburn Educator Named School Employee of the Year
Office manager who began as a parent volunteer is the heart of Lea Hill Elementary

OLYMPIA, April 28, 2010 — Lori Sanford, the office manager at Lea Hill Elementary School in the Auburn School District, is the 2010 Washington State Classified School Employee of the Year.

State Superintendent Randy Dorn recognized the eight Regional Classified School Employees of the Year and announced the State Classified School Employee of the Year at a ceremony today in the Old Capitol Building in Olympia.

“Lori and all of the regional finalists demonstrate what a difference an individual can make in their school, district and community,” Dorn said. “Their commitment to our kids has not wavered. Despite the significant challenges facing education and our state, Lori and her colleagues continue keep the big picture in view and always put our students first. They are examples for us all.”

Sanford and her fellow regional finalists were joined by their families, friends, colleagues, representatives from the state’s educational service districts and various education associations.

Sanford first walked through the doors at Lea Hill as the parent of a kindergartener in 1982. She quickly became an indispensible parent volunteer in the library, the resource room on the PTA and on district committees.

In 1992 Sanford joined the staff at Lea Hill, where she has remained for the past 18 years as the office manager. She is hailed by her colleagues as a “true professional,” the “poster person for efficiency” and “a joy to work with.” In addition to managing the office, she supervises most of the school communication materials including the monthly newsletter, large sections of the school website, the weekly bulletin to staff and the reader board outside of the school.

Sanford also works closely with Principal Ed Herda in what he calls a “high functioning team.” She tackles administrative duties such as monitoring the budget and organizing class coverage to ensure that Herda spends as much time as possible acting as an instructional leader.

“Everything (Lori) does contributes to our primary goal – increase student achievement,” Herda said. “She treats all patrons with respect. She helps me keep things in perspective. Her positive and professional attitude is a constant reminder for me to do the same, even on tough days.”

Regional winners
Before announcing the State Classified School Employee of the Year, Martin Mueller, assistant superintendent for student support at OSPI, introduced all of the regional finalists, nominated by their respective educational service districts. Superintendent Dorn then presented each finalist with a custom-made award from Hilltop Artists in Tacoma. The Regional Classified School Employees of the Year included:

Brian Liberg, West Valley School District
Brian manages more than 50 staff while keeping his eye on the big picture issues of health, safety and budget in his role as the director of transportation and nutrition services for West Valley School District.

His enthusiasm, sense of humor and “can-do” attitude turn challenges into positive solutions. Across the district, Brian is appreciated for his efficiency, reliability and focus on the kids. Principal Travis Peterson of Orchard Center Elementary said, “(Brian) always seems to strike an appropriate balance between what’s good for the pocket book and what’s good for the kids… Despite all of the perpetual little fires he has to put out, Brian always seems to set his eyes on the greater purpose – to provide the best possible service to the children he serves.”

Joy Kaasa, Wahluke School District
Joy is currently a paraprofessional in special education for Wahluke School District where she has worked for the past five years. Despite being relatively new to the profession, assistant superintendent Heather Hastie-Ulery asserted that Joy is “the most talented paraprofessional I have ever had the pleasure of working with.”

Joy’s compassion, humility and high expectations combined with her exceptional instructional skill make her a natural in a special education classroom. She expertly integrates general education and life skills all the while engaging her students in the powerful process of goal setting and reflection.

Stephanie Ongtooguk, Vancouver Public Schools
Stephanie has served as the bilingual family coordinator at Washington Elementary since 2004. During the past six years she has transformed Washington for Latino families. Stephanie is often an interpreter of not only language, but also culture. She considers herself the “switchboard” between parents and teachers and is passionate about keeping abreast of the politics, literature and socio-economic developments in the community she serves.

Stephanie is widely admired and respected across the district. She organizes monthly Latino parent meetings at several schools, coordinates and interprets more than 300 fall conferences at several different schools and is the foremost expert on Spanish language dialects.

Deborah Harbord, Olympia School District
Deborah is a basic education paraeducator at Olympia High School where her work is focused on students who are “at-risk” academically or credit deficient. Because she is fluent in Spanish, Deborah also serves as an interpreter between Spanish speaking parents and staff. Affectionately nick named ‘moving target’ by her colleagues, Deborah embraces every opportunity to fully participate in her professional community and improve student outcomes. She has served as the classified staff development coordinator, advises student groups, serves on faculty committees and has developed a successful afterschool tutoring program.

For Deborah, those relationships that propel her students into a confident and well rounded adulthood are the greatest reward of her profession and, in the end, make the most difference. And her students agree. “Mrs. Harbord made me realize what I want in life, what I am willing to exchange for it and what I deserve . . .When I was ready to give up, she was there pushing me forward and fighting for me. She has always believed in me,” said Olympia High School junior, Cassandra McGovern.

Kelly Dickinson-Ingalls, Quilcene School District
Kelly joined Quilcene School in 1997 as a library assistant and became the school librarian in 1999 – a position she holds today. During the course of her 11 years as librarian, Kelly has transformed the space into a community hub and an integral part of the academic vision for the district; collaborating with teachers and staff to identify the resources necessary for student success and carefully selecting books to simulate curiosity, promote literacy and encourage research. Kelly’s “other duties as assigned” include distance learning coordinator and mentor, Navigation 101 coordinator, mentor for home-based students and operation manager for student technology accounts.

In this small district, Kelly has embraced the opportunity to wear many different hats – realizing that she has the ability to transform. Her principal, James Betteley, agreed, saying, “In my 14 years as an educator I have not been witness to anyone more professional, self-driven, or one who exhibits the leadership qualities that Kelly exudes… She is a primary reason we are successful as a small district.”

Timmie Linehan, Lake Chelan School District
Timmie is the dynamic college and career coordinator at Chelan High School. She took on this challenge in 2007 and quickly began the work of rebuilding a program that, once a perceived weakness for the school, is now the envy of schools across the area. Timmie’s impact is evident not only in the testimony of parents, but also in the success of her students. The class of 2009 was offered more than $1.3 million in financial aid and scholarships – nearly double the amount of previous classes.

Chelan’s redesigned College and Career Center is a resource hub that works in tandem with the counseling staff to provide real opportunities for students and support for parents. As the director of assessment, Frank Phelps said, “She cares about people. She cares enough that she puts the needs of others before herself… Timmie has not earned recognition because she has sought it out. Rather, it has found her through the many people that she has unselfishly helped and influenced. She is as deserving a person as I have ever met.”

Audie Kingma, Lynden School District
Audie has worked at Lynden High School for the past 26 years. She is the unofficial “go-to” person and the “social glue” among her colleagues at Lynden High where she knows most of the parents and students by name.

As a registrar, Audie is exceptional. Her work ethic, organization skills, dedication to students and respect for parents keep Lynden running smoothly and make each family feel that their individual needs are valued. Audie is there when students schedule their first high school classes, cheering them on at games and other special events, when the need to order transcripts for college applications and for all the milestones in between.

Her colleague, Randy Anderson, said, “(Audie) is such a joy to all of us. Her positive attitude, her kind heart and loving spirit are what make her ‘Audie.’ If and when she decides to retire, we are all going to miss not just her wisdom and knowledge, but her caring character and huge heart.”

The Washington State Classified School Employee of the Year award is administered by OSPI in collaboration with Washington’s Educational Service Districts who each select a regional nominee. The selection criteria are: professional biography, outstanding work performance and professional leadership and collaboration.

The 2010 state award winner was chosen by a state selection committee comprised of award winning educators and representatives from the following organizations: Public School Employees of Washington; Washington Education Association; Washington State Board of Education; Washington State Parent Teacher Association; Washington Association of School Administrators and Washington State School Directors Association.

Photos of each of this year’s finalists are posted on the OSPI Education Awards page.


About OSPI

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K-12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine Educational Service Districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.

OSPI does not discriminate and provides equal access to its programs and services for all persons without regard to race, color, gender, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sexual preference/orientation, age, veteran’s status or the presence of any physical, sensory or mental disability.

Nathan Olson
OSPI Communications Manager
(360) 725-6015

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   Updated 4/28/2010

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